Read below about stiff shoulder, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your stiff shoulder from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Stiff Shoulder

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced stiff shoulder. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis of the Shoulder)

    Adhesive Capsulitis or "Frozen shoulder" is when the shoulder is painful and loses motion because of inflammation.

    1.5 - 3 years, but 90% recover fully without treatment

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous shoulder pain, stiff shoulder, dull, achy shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night, difficulty moving the shoulder
    Symptoms that always occur with frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder):
    stiff shoulder
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. RA is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that it is caused by the immune system incorrectly attacking the joints when it shouldn't.

    RA is a chronic disease which requires lifelong control.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, joint pain, muscle aches, daytime sleepiness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Shoulder Arthritis

    Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of the joints. Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the primary symptoms of arthritis. Any joint in the body may be affected by the disease, including the shoulder joint.

    Shoulder arthritis is a chronic problem once it develops.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night, difficulty moving the shoulder, swollen shoulder
    Symptoms that always occur with shoulder arthritis:
    spontaneous shoulder pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  4. 4.Septic Arthritis

    Septic arthritis is an intensely painful joint infection.

    12-14 days with treatment

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, spontaneous shoulder pain, chills, knee pain, joint pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  5. 5.Psoriatic Arthritis

    Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. Some people who have psoriasis also get a form of arthritis (inflammation and swelling of joints) called psoriatic arthritis.

    This type of arthritis can be managed with treatment, and permanent damage can be prevented. However, the underlying cause (psoriasis) is currently incurable.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    shoulder pain, lower back pain, joint pain, upper back pain, hip pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

    Impingement syndrome is a common shoulder condition seen in aging adults. The tendons of rotator cuff muscles, whose action is to rotate the arm such such as during a tennis swing, pass in a narrow space between two bones in the shoulder. When the space becomes too narrow, which can happen as a result of an overuse injury, pain may develop as the tendons rub against the bones.

    Impingement may take weeks to months to settle.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one shoulder, dull, achy shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night, difficulty moving the shoulder, shoulder pain from overuse
    Symptoms that always occur with rotator cuff tendonitis:
    pain in one shoulder
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Biceps Tendonitis

    The biceps is the muscle in the front of the upper arm. Its main action is to flex the arm. The beginning of the muscle is a tendon that passes in front of the shoulder. Problems with the tendon can arise due to impingement (where the tendon gets compressed by surrounding structures) or inflammation due to overuse of the shoulder. People with this condition experience a deep, throbbing ache in the front of the shoulder.

    Recover on its own within weeks to months.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one shoulder, pain in the front of the shoulder, spontaneous shoulder pain, dull, achy shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night
    Symptoms that always occur with biceps tendonitis:
    pain in the front of the shoulder
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

FAQs About Stiff Shoulder

Here are some frequently asked questions about stiff shoulder.

Can a frozen shoulder cause a stiff neck?

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is due to thickening of the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint capsule and the collagenous tissue surrounding the joint. This leads to loss of joint volume which limits your range of motion and sleeping position. Restricted movement can lead to stiffness in the neck and back. It is important to see a physician to differentiate shoulder pain stemming from true frozen shoulder versus shoulder pain that may actually be referred pain from a problem in the neck.

Can a frozen shoulder be reversed?

In most cases, frozen shoulder is a self-limited condition, although complete resolution does not occur in many patients. Even though pain in the shoulder discourages movement, physical therapy to gently keep the shoulder moving helps prevent further adhesions from forming in the shoulder. Surgery in the shoulder to cut existing adhesions, called capsular release, is a procedure that theoretically has the maximum benefit for a frozen shoulder. However, observational studies thus far have shown that surgery has no increased benefit on reversing frozen shoulder over conservative management such as physical therapy and steroid injections.

Can stress cause a stiff shoulder?

Stress can cause increased tension in the shoulder and neck muscles causing stiffness and pain.

Is there a difference between a stiff shoulder and a frozen shoulder?

Stiff shoulder is a broad term with many etiologies, of which frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is one specific cause that is characterized by the gradual onset of a painful shoulder with significantly restricted passive and active range of motion. Other causes of stiff shoulder that are more common and must be considered include rotator cuff tendinopathy, osteoarthritis, and biceps tendinopathy.

Why is my shoulder stiff when I'm sleeping?

Shoulder pain and stiffness that occurs or worsens at night is usually secondary to degeneration or inflammation of the rotator cuff muscles. Sleeping on the same side repeatedly or for a prolonged amount of time aggravates the shoulder bursa (space surrounding the shoulder joint) and/or rotator cuff muscles leading to inflammation and subsequent pain and stiffness.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Stiff Shoulder

  • Q.How would you explain the cause of your shoulder pain?
  • Q.Do you have a history of heart disease?
  • Q.Can you fully move your shoulders around?
  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our stiff shoulder symptom checker to find out more.

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Stiff Shoulder Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced stiff shoulder have also experienced:

    • 26% Pain in One Shoulder
    • 6% Shoulder Pain
    • 3% Pain in One Arm
  • People who have experienced stiff shoulder had symptoms persist for:

    • 36% Over a Month
    • 23% Less Than a Week
    • 21% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced stiff shoulder were most often matched with:

    • 33% Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis of the Shoulder)
    • 33% Rheumatoid Arthritis
    • 33% Shoulder Arthritis
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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